The Jammu and Kashmir government under Governor Satya Pal Malik has decided to repeal the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, popularly known as the Roshni Act with immediate effect. As per reports, the government has stated that the Act has failed to realise its objectives and there were reports of misuse.
As per the government’s order, all pending applications for transfer for ownership to new occupants will be cancelled. The government will not, however, cancel the ownership already transferred under the Act.
The Roshni Act was brought forth in the year 2001 under the former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad with the proposed twin objective of generating revenues for power projects in the state and conferring property rights to occupants of state-owned land. It was expected that the move will boost the agriculture sector and will generate substantial revenue for the state.
Under the Roshni Act, approximately 20.55 lakh kanals of state land was opened to conferring ownership rights. However, over the years, only 15.85% of the land was approved for vesting ownership rights. The resultant revenue was reportedly meagre and the expected boost to the agrarian sector was also not achieved.
There have been complaints of the misuse of the Act. In 2016, the Jammu and Kashmir government had announced that it will initiate a probe into alleged irregularities under the Act after the Revenue minister informed that instead of the expected Rs 25,000 crores, the Act had generated only Rs 78.47 crores for the government.
The then Principal Accountant General (PAG) had called the Roshni Act as the biggest land scam of the country. It was alleged that beneficiaries of the scheme were ministers in the past governments, bureaucrats and politicians.
Initially, the Roshni Act allowed the illegal occupants of state lands up to 1990 to own the land after paying the price of Rs 20 lakh per Kanal. However, in 2005, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government brought amendments in the Roshni Act that allowed illegal occupants up to 2004 to own the state-owned land at the meagre price of 10 to 15 % the actual price for commercial and residential properties and a paltry Rs 100 per Kanal for agricultural land.
Over the years, there have also been allegations that the Roshni Act was aiding in rampant attempts in a demographic invasion of Jammu and Ladakh. Advocate Ankur Sharma, who is the chairman of the Ikkjutt Jammu forum, had filed a PIL in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court mentioning that the there is a conspiracy underfoot to change the predominantly Hindu populated areas in Jammu region.
The J&K High Court had ordered a fortnight ago to stop all transaction by the beneficiaries including selling and construction on the lands allocated to them under the Roshni Act with immediate effect. Advocate Ankur Sharma has maintained that the demographic invasion of Jammu and Ladakh is the long arm of the Islamic terrorism that has engulfed the Kashmir region and has the potential to collapse all resistance against separatism in the state.
As per the State Administration Council (SAC) that met on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Governor Malik, concluded that the contentious Roshni Act has failed to serve its purpose and is no longer relevant in present contexts.
The Roshni Act and its subsequent misuse had come to light after the Mehbooba Mufti government had, in February this year, had ordered that the nomadic communities illegally occupying the forest lands in the state will not be dislocated until a new tribal policy is formed. Ankur Sharma had later alleged that the Mufti government had basically ordered that no provisions of criminal law will be applied to the Muslim nomadic tribes even if they grab lands and smuggle cattle in Hindu dominated regions.